Treasures of Walt Disney Archives at Ronald Reagan Library Preview (Video, Photos)

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On Friday, July 6, 2012, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library will debut its newest rotating exhibit in partnership with The Walt Disney Company, ‘D23 Presents Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives at the Ronald Reagan Library.’ This will represent the largest single, assembled collection of items from the Studio’s Archives ever on public display which is fitting as the Reagan Library’s Museum is the largest of its kind, welcoming more than half a million visitors annually and housing an actual Boeing 707 jet which served as Air Force One for several United States presidents, including Ronald Reagan, the last to use this specific plane.

Although Walt Disney shared personal relationships with several U.S. Presidents, his relationship with actor-turned-governor-turned-president Reagan is arguably the strongest. Reagan, of course, served as one of the television hosts at the opening of the Disneyland theme park and maintained a relationship with the company for decades more, holding his second inaugural parade at Epcot. Many of the items on display in the exhibit are in fact on loan from the Ronald Reagan Foundation.

The Disney Archives exhibit is so large in fact, that the Museum voluntarily removed a partition wall to accommodate it. Consisting of more than 500 items, the Archives exhibit chronicles roughly 90 years of Disney history, beginning with Laugh-O-Gram’s Alice comedies to the creation and loss of creative control of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit to the birth of Mickey Mouse and what would become The Walt Disney Company. While many of the items have been on public display before, such as at the Disney D23 Expo displays and at the Main Street Opera House at Disneyland and other places, many items have never been on public display before. In addition, there are several firsts at the exhibit including the first time the prop books used in the openings of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty have ever been on display together as well as all 44 busts from the Hall of Presidents at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. What makes the collection even more significant is up through George W. Bush, all of the sculpts were created by master sculptor Blaine Gibson who would come out of retirement temporarily to do so (Gibson also famously created Partners statue seen in the central plaza area of many of the Magic Kingdom parks). Valerie Edwards, who studied under Gibson, created the sculpt for Obama.

We are proud to have been part of a small, invited group allowed to preview the Archives before it opens to the public later this week and sent Samantha Henriksen to experience the new exhibit and report on it which she has done through the video and photos presented below. Despite the sheer number of photos presented here, we can assure you that there are at least just as many that we opted not to share at this time and there’s still plenty she didn’t capture on camera.

In the video below, the group is addressed first by Foundation Executive Director John Heubusch, who talks a bit about the museum and the historical significance of the partnership. Also speaking is D23 head Steven Clark, along with a brief appearance by Walt Disney Archives Director Becky Cline. Samantha then takes us for an amazing up-close look at some of the items on display such as Walt Disney’s formal office from the Walt Disney Studios lot in Burbank (both offices were at one time on display at Disneyland, but the other office is now part of the One Man’s Dream exhibit at Disney’s Hollywood Studios), the Hall of Presidents sculpts, the 11 foot model of the Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and a large wall collage saluting contemporary animated films from Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios.

Below is our gallery of photos of some of the items on display at the Archives. Click on any of the thumbnails to see larger versions:

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Obviously it will take some time to peruse through the photos (we are told it’s not uncommon for those previewing the items to take upwards of three hours on the Disney exhibit alone), but here’s some personal favorites from the collection shared above:

  • A three page telegram from Charles Mintz to Walt Disney regarding his and Universal’s reaction to the second Oswald short (hint: it wasn’t kind). Mintz even makes suggestions that Oswald should be ‘young and snappy looking’ and sport a monocle. Included is Walt’s hand-written response which ends with ‘forget the monicle [sic].’
  • The original animation script for Steamboat Willie as drawn by Ub Iwerks and typed by Walt Disney. Walt reportedly kept the script in his desk permanently. Besides the illustrations, what’s equally great is the scripting for all of the sound as this would be the first film to feature a synchronized soundtrack.
  • Herb Ryman’s concept map for the Disneyland theme park. What we love about this is that you’ll note Jungle Cruise is located on the opposite side of where it ended up due to demands by vegetation.
  • Costumes from the Disney Dreams photo campaign by Annie Leibovitz including Peter Pan as portrayed by Mikhail Baryshnikov and Tinker Bell as portrayed by Tina Fey.
  • A giant teapot from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland for when she was small in the film and used it to hide in.
  • A letter from then-nine year old Amy Carter to the Walt Disney Studios professing her affection for Evinrude from The Rescuers and requesting a picture of him.

The ‘D23 Presents Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives at the Ronald Reagan Library’ will open July 6, 2012 and will be presented through April 2013. The museum, located in Simi Valley, California, is open daily except for a few major holidays. Because of the museum’s popularity, it is advised that those interested in visiting the museum take advantage of the new online ticketing system which will guarantee entrance on a specific future date/time. The system also allows future guests to reserve use of its innovative audio tour (narrated by Gary Sinise and includes information on the Disney Archives exhibit) which doubles as a photo/video camera, and pre-purchase meals and souvenirs such as the Disney exhibition catalog. In addition, D23 members receive a small discount on admission and may enter the Disney exhibit as early as 9:30 am half an hour before non-members (requires 9:30 am – 10:00 am timed ticket).

Although the museum has a fairly liberal camera policy in most areas, we have been advised that the Disney exhibit permits only the use of non-flash photography and does not permit videography of any kind. Lastly, as mentioned earlier in the article, prepare for ample time to visit the exhibit, approximately 3 hours for the Disney exhibit itself along with 2-3 hours for the remainder of the museum.

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